Phillip Smith
covering

The answer you’ve been looking for: How to find-and keep-love

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-and Keep-Love

All happiness or unhappiness solely depends upon the quality of the object to which we are attached by love.

I finished Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-and Keep-Love while at the cottage this summer — it’s a quick and engaging read that I recommend to just about anyone.

From the start, It was the research in this book that pulled me in and validated much of my own experience: “Numerous studies show that once we become attached to someone, the two of us form one physiological unit. Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing, and the levels of hormones in our blood.”

The authors go on to describe three attachment styles that are archetypical among adults: so called “secure,” “anxious,” and “avoidant.” There’s a handy test in the book to figure out which you might lean toward, but there’s an even more precise test online here.

These attachment styles, in my assessment, speak more to intimacy than anything else. Those who are secure tend to have confidence that they’ll find the intimacy they need in life and tend to be good communicators around intimacy. The anxious folks tend to fear that they won’t find the intimacy they want, which leads to anxious behaviour (or “protest behaviour” as described in the book). Avoidants seem to have a complex relationship with intimacy, both wanting it and pushing it away when it becomes too close.

The interesting pattern that resonated for me was about the likelihood for those with avoidant styles to end up dating people with anxious styles — something the authors suggest can lead to a challenging relationship. One of the reasons behind this is because “avoidant individuals actually prefer anxiously attached people,” and the other reason is “avoidants are in the dating pool more frequently and for longer periods of time,” which is a result of breaking up with their partners more often.

The first order of business, therefore, is to become aware of the working model that governs your relationship behavior.

The good news is: information is power, as always. Having an awareness of one’s own attachment or intimacy style, as well as some tips for assessing a partner’s style, can provide a helpful “relationship map” or inventory of where intimacy conflict might arise, and how to work through it. As the authors propose “Whenever a new concern, dissatisfaction, or conflict occurs, enter the new information. This will help in your quest to break your insecure patterns.”

Here’s one example scenario the book lays out: “If you are avoidant—the surefire sign that you need to use effective communication is when you feel an irrepressible need to bolt. Use effective communication to explain to your partner that you need some space and that you’d like to find a way of doing so that is acceptable to him or her. Suggest a few alternatives, making sure that the other person’s needs are taken care of. By doing so, you’re more likely to get the breathing space you need.”

While this book doesn’t dive into the details how to master “effective communication,” the passages that do touch on the topic reference enough of the patterns from non-violent communication (NVC) that one could safely assume that any book on NVC would be a sensible follow-up read.

I’ll leave off with this passage: “[You can build your own personal] belief that when people fall in love, they are all but putting their soul in their partner’s hand for safekeeping, and that you both have the responsibility to keep it safe and make it prosper.”

Happy reading (and relationships!).

About

Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.

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